April 26, 2007 at 9:52 am
After college I took a job doing phone surveys to help pay the bills before I was able to find a “real” job. It wasn’t telemarketing. I doubt I would have lasted an hour as a telemarketer before hanging up my headset and searching under the desk to find my lost soul. The company I worked for conducted focus groups about new products and needed to find people in a certain demographic to get their input on whatever out clients were testing. We called, asked people questions, and if they fit the parameters we invited them to the group.
I learned a lot about people. Some people were willing to lie to try to get into the group so they could get paid the participation fee. I went through about 3 pages of a diaper survey with a woman before I asked her what cartoon character was on the side of the brand name diapers she had supposedly bought, but she couldn’t give me the correct answer. Then I had to go back through 3 pages of answers and erase all the pencil marks circling her responses. Yeah, we were so low tech we didn’t even have computers. I was grateful we didn’t have rotary phones. When I did a grocery shopping survey I learned almost everyone bought cookies and typically at least once a week, which made me feel a lot less guilty about my then crappy eating habits.
By far the easiest survey I did was for the Indiana Lottery. Almost everyone I called played the lottery. Some people spent at least $100 a month on tickets. I was gobsmacked. If these people were to take that $100 a month and sock it away in an IRA or invest it wisely they actually would be millionaires in 30-40 years. But instead they were tossing away a lot of money each month in the hopes of getting rich quick.
When I read the overly hyped study recently that most diets don’t work, I thought about all those Midwesterners who pay their money to the state lottery every month. They’re looking for a quick fix to their financial situation with minimal work and cost, but in the long run they’d be better off doing something different with their money. The “dieting” referred to in the study is the same type of temporary fix, going on a plan for a little while and then going off of it so all the weight comes back. Most of these people would be better off if they applied their efforts and concentration to a sustainable long-term solution and not a quick and fast reward that is unlikely to give them a good return on their work.
But people still play the lottery and people still diet and they probably always will. Maybe this is just the way the human brain works. And sometimes people do win the lottery, though I hear it’s just as likely to screw up your life as make it better. I sometimes wonder if everyone who becomes thin finds it to be just as fabulous as they imagined or if they’re surprised that they still have everyday problems. You don’t get to blame things that go wrong on your fat anymore. Playing the lottery can be a fun diversion, but it seems unwise to stake your financial future on it. Sure, I’d still love to win the lottery and I’d always chose to be thin over fat. Just don’t expect to see me playing the scratch off games at Kroger anytime soon. I’ll be too busy analyzing the distribution of funds in my IRA.